In 2006 the Calciopoli scandal ripped the heart out of Juventus, preventing them from challenging for honours. Now, three years later, as la vecchia signora moves into her third season back in Serie A, and she finally seems equipped in all departments to challenge Inter for lo scudetto.
The first and possibly most significant change was taken before the end of last season, with Ciro Ferrara being promoted to coach, replacing Claudio Ranieri. The former Chelsea and Valencia man was never equipped to be in charge of this biggest of clubs.
His genial appproach—presenting an acceptable face of the "new Juve"—being completely opposed to the traditional Juve style, being bullied by Mourinho & Inter.
The appointment in his place of Ferrara being a return to the old school for Juventus, bringing in a man who was a major part of their past glories, an undoubted winner. Obvious comparisons have been made to Barca's Pep Guardiola, but Ciro is very much his own man, with definite ideas of formations, tactics and the personnel he wants at the club in his first full season.
In the two games he was in charge at the end of last term, the team was re-invigorated and looked like they were eager to impress and hungry to win—two things sadly lacking in the two months previous.
It is simplistic to dismiss this as an easy achievement with just two games left but Champions League qualification was in the balance. Ferrara secured six points and with it 2nd place—vindication of the board's decision to make the change when they did.
The two games also showed that Ferrara has ultimate faith in the captain, Alessandro Del Piero, and serious doubts over Trezeguet. Del Piero was restored to the attack after being snubbed by Ranieri and I would expect him to be used in the big games next season, with Captain & Coach picking the times to rest him, letting his undoubted talent shine when Juve need it most.
As has become custom expect many pundits to write Del Piero off as too old and too slow, only to sit back and watch him once again prove them all wrong. David Trezeguet featured for only a few minutes under the new coach and if a buyer can be found I would expect him to finally leave Turin.
The defensive line was a constant problem under Ranieri, being deployed way too high up the pitch. Without the pace to cover this system was costing goals and points at an alarming rate. Ferrara's obvious expertise in this area was apparent immeditately, and expect his influence on the defence to enable players like Chiellini, Molinaro, and De Ceglie to shine.
Another source of confidence for fans of the bianconeri is the emergence of Alessio Secco as a hard-hitting dealer on the transfer market. Often ridiculed and held responsible for numerous bad signings (Poulsen, Tiago, Almiron etc), this summer has seen him acquire the main target—Brazilian Diego—just a few days after the season ended, and secure the return of Cannavaro from Madrid.
These are both key signings, Ferrara's team will be built around Diego's creativity, while Cannavaro will both bolster the back line & help to develop the many young defenders in the squad.
Secco must be given great credit for both signings, and seems to be focused on showing a tough streak in negotiations with Udinese for D'Agostino. If he gets his man at the right price there, and makes another good move at left back, the opinion of many fans and pundits will be turned on its head.
A strong hand building the squad can only improve Juve's chances of silverware.
Part Two of this in-depth look at Juventus will focus on the players and transfers expected in and out this summer—look out for it in the next few days!